The Seed: Cancer in the Family Tree

The two pictures above depict two times we had four generations of direct father/son Taylor men together in one room. Three men in the first picture have fought with cancer. Today, I am proud to introduce you to my dad, Rick Taylor, as I welcome him as a guest writer for today. In this post he discusses cancer in the family, and what it is like to have watched 3 generations around him fight this disease. You can follow him on Twitter, and leave some love in the comments!

 

In ancient China the Emperor once built a new palace, and as was the custom, he commissioned a Buddhist priest to write a scroll to proclaim good fortune for his family.

The priest wrote “Father dies, son dies, grandson dies”.

Furious, the Emperor had soldiers bring the priest to him, intending to kill him for his insult. The priest told him:

“If your son died before you, you would grieve terribly. If your grandson died before you, you and your son would be inconsolable. But if you pass on, then your son, then your grandson, this is the natural order of life, and there is no greater blessing than to live in harmony with the law of nature.”

I am the Taylor Family historian. I know where my family came from, where they lived, and how they died. I know my great-great Grandfather Taylor was a Confederate Veteran who lost an eye and lived to be nearly 90. I know my great-grandfather Taylor started working in the textile mills at age 6 and died at 61 of tuberculosis.

I watched my grandfather Taylor suffer through cancer of the larynx and die at 86. He started smoking when he was 12, and worked in the mills all his life. The fact that he had cancer didn’t register much with me. “I never smoked, so I should be ok” I told myself.

Then my father died of prostate cancer. At age 74. And he never smoked.

This made me rethink my longevity. Still, Dad died at the statistical average age of death for Taylor men. So maybe I could still beat the average.

Then my phone rings on September 11, 2012. From the emergency room in Abingdon Virginia. Where my son, John, had just been diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer.

And none of my family knowledge prepared me for this.

What came next was four months of emergency trips, long days in hospital rooms, and much worry about the future. The Taylor Family rallied around us. We fought it as a family, and in February of 2013 John was declared the victor in the fight. And this Thanksgiving is much different from last.

But now I look at the family tree differently. I look down the lines and worry about my grandson. I know my son still has to be vigilant and guard his health. I think about my brother and sister, and their children, and hope they do not face the cancer menace that pursues us.

And in the back of my mind I wonder – is the seed growing in me?

Comments

The Beginning
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Comments

  1. My mom & I used to feel sad for those around us given cancer diagnoses, wondering how our family had gotten so lucky to dodge the bullet. On Oct., 11 this year, Mom went in for stomach surgery but came out with a terminal gastric cancer diagnosis. She is about to turn 66. We are at a loss. Now I look in the mirror and wonder if I “have the seed,” and hold my breath when I look at my 17-month old son. I pray for time with my mom. I pray my son will live to see 90. I pray for a cure.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your mother Britt. My prayers to you and your family. I don’t think it’s something you can ever be prepared for. I often wondered, as does my father, if I had the seed of cancer in me. But never expected it to come so early. Having been a 2 pack a day smoker at one point, I always figured it would be lung cancer in my older age. Not advanced testicular cancer at age 29. I never thought that I would fight for my life before my kids were grown and out of the house.

      Now I look towards my son, and I fear that it may happen to him. I wonder what I can do, in all of my limited power, to help prevent it. I pray he never has to know what it’s like to battle cancer. And like you, I pray for a cure. For everyone who battles, has battled, and will battle, I pray for that cure.

  2. David Stanley says:

    Great piece. It’s the greatest tragedy, to bury one’s offspring. One year ago this Dec. 14, my parents lost my brother to oral squamous cell- a non-drinker/non-smoker who got a bad roll of the dice. It was horrible to watch both my brother suffer, and my parents as well.(Let’s not mention his wife and kids.) Over the past year, I’ve come to really value your son’s work, and your son, as we’ve shared cancer stories (I’m a melanoma survivor). Thank-you for sharing your story. He’s a good kid you got there. Hug him for me.

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